WOMAN AT WAR (12)
WOMAN AT WAR (12)
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Cast: Halldora Geirhardsdottir, Juan Camillo, Roman Estrada, Jóhann Sigur∂arson
SYNOPSIS: Halla is a 50-year-old environmental activist who crusades against the local aluminium industry in Iceland. As her actions grow bolder, her life changes in the blink of an eye when she is finally granted permission to adopt a girl from the Ukraine.
Director and co-writer Benedikt Erlingsson [Of Horses and Men (2013); Naglinn (2008)] brings his background as an actor to help infuse Woman at War (KONA FER Í STRÍÐ) with a distinctive wry, black and surreal comic tone.
In turn hilarious, surprising and poignant, the film is the story of middle-aged Halla (an amazing performance from Halldora Geirhardsdottir), part-time choir mistress and part-time eco warrior and climate change activist.
While attacking some energy pylons, she receives a phone call that tells her she is eligible to adopt a longed-for child. Halla must make a choice – fight for the future of all humanity or take on the responsibility of an unwanted child from Ukraine?
Halla presents herself as a conventional fifty-year-old independent woman. But behind the scenes of her quiet routine, she leads a double life as a passionate environmental activist. Known to others only by her alias ‘The Woman of the Mountain’, Halla secretly wages a one-woman-war on the local aluminium industry. As Halla’s actions grow bolder, from petty vandalism to outright industrial sabotage, she succeeds in pausing the negotiations between the Icelandic government and the corporation building a new aluminium smelter. But just as she begins planning her biggest and boldest operation yet, she receives unexpected news that changes everything. Her application to adopt a child has finally been accepted and there is a little girl waiting for her in Ukraine. As Halla prepares to abandon her role as saboteur and saviour of the Highlands to fulfil her dream of becoming a mother, she decides to plot one final attack to deal the aluminium industry a crippling blow.
Geirharðsdóttir is mesmerising throughout, but she receives convincing support from Jóhann Sigurðarson as Sveinbjörn, the gruffly avuncular sheep farmer who describes himself as her ‘alleged cousin’.
Halla’s various activities, physical and mental, are underscored by an evocative soundtrack – a three-piece band for her action sequences and a traditional Ukrainian vocal trio for quiet introspection. The pianist, drummer and sousaphonist, later with the addition of a trio of Ukrainian folk singers, act like a strange, surreal Greek chorus.
Cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson captures the stunning beauty of rural Iceland that Halla is defending, and the entire ensemble give convincing performances that underline the film’s deadpan humour.
While this off-beat comedy is tremendously entertaining, Woman at War also poses deeper questions about individual responsibility to our planet.
Streaming on Curzon Home Video
Images courtesy of Magnolia Pictures